Sunday, February 20, 2011

Photo Opps and Dodging Airspace

Today was one of those traditional $100 hamburger days. An IBM colleague of mine (Richard) was visiting from Spain. He has heard me rave about flying for years and I thought today was the perfect day to show him firsthand.

The plan was either to fly to Key West or Palm Beach, both of which are gr8 $100 Hamburger destinations. When Richard learned that Disney was right on the way to Palm Beach, the decision was clear. He had just bought a new camera and was eager to try it out en route over Disney. However, I warned him that there is a temporary flight restriction (TFR) over Disney, which may hamper the photo opportunities. 

Interestingly, the Disney TFR is not so temporary. In fact, it seems to be a permanent restriction that prohibits all aircraft from surface to 3000 FT. (I guess Mickey doesn’t want anybody buzzing Cinderella’s Castle).

But I had a trick up my sleeve that I was hoping would result in a legal way to get into that TFR airspace.

When we were ready for takeoff at Tampa Executive there was a broken cloud layer @ ~ 5000 FT. We climbed through a nice big whole in the clouds @ ~ 1000 FT/min and enjoyed a smooth ride at 5500.
Now it was time to setup for my TFR trick. The Kissimmee Airport has an instrument approach procedure (RNAV GPS 15), which cuts right through Disney's TFR!  As long you get the appropriate clearances from ATC, you can get low enough to get some gr8 views of Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Downtown Disney.  We got cleared down to 2300 FT, which was comfortably below the clouds and enabled Richard to put his new camera to the test.
After our Disney flyby, we went missed approach on the procedure and continued direct to Flagler County Airport , where we had lunch @ Hijackers.  On the way back, we had more airspace to deal with.  The restricted area just north of Orlando was active and the Orlando approach frequency was too busy for us to pick up flight following or even a clearance into class B.  As a result, we climbed through another  "whole in the clouds" to get on top of the class B @ 10,500 FT.  After clearing the Orlando airspace, we needed to descend and fortunately found another nice big whole in the clouds.  In order to maintain VFR, we needed to do some steep turns and 360s to make it through the whole.
Then moments later, we actually saw a skydiver near Zephyr Hills under a bright red canopy!
So in the end, Richard still needs a lot of practice with his new camera.  But as you can see, overall mission accomplished for today!

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